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Shark attacks have doubled in 20 years, in densely populated areas, study finds

Shark attacks are doubled all over the world in the last 20 years, but the pace of the attack remains low, new research has found. (File photo of a Great White Shark)
(2010 Getty Images)

Shark attacks around the world have doubled in the past 20 years, according to a recent study.

The study, published Wednesday in PLOS ONE, was the first statistical analysis of shark attacks worldwide and looked to attack from the 1960s to 2015.

While the statistics seem staggering, researchers clarified that the rate of attack is still low, and the likelihood of someone attacks varies based on the location.

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Stephen Midway, an assistant professor in the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences at Louisiana State University, lead the study and said that the increase in shark attacks is less about an increase in dangerous sharks and more about the growing human populations along the coasts.

“As development increases along the coast and in the beach communities, more residents and tourists to frequent these waters. With more people in the water, the chance of a shark attack increases,” Midway explained in a statement.

“However, I must stress the fact that not all localities saw an increase. And even in the places where we saw an increase, the odds were still a couple of million,” he added.

Midway and his colleagues used data from the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida, Florida Museum of Natural History to complete their analysis.

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With the help of time series models in 14 countries, and more particularly for the regions within the united states, Australia and South Africa, which had the highest rates of shark attacks — Midway, and his team discovered that shark attack rates have doubled during the last 20 years, in densely populated areas such as the Coast of the East and the south of Australia.

Even with more attacks, the rates remained low. Over the 55-year period of the study, Halfway through, found there were only 1,215 shark attacks in the US and only 24 of which are fatal.

Most of the other attacks resulted in small wounds, similar to dog bites.

“We need to think of the risk of a shark attack, as we would think of the risk of a car accident. For example, we do not assess our personal risk of getting into a car accident by the national statistics on car accidents per year. We think about our specific car, the weather, the road conditions and other local factors,” Midway said.

Midway, which are usually studies of fish ecology, was inspired to look into the subject after a series of shark attacks were reported in North Carolina in 2015.

“I was wondering what the chances of shark attacks is in a certain number of years at various places in the world,” Midway said.

“While shark attacks are often reported in the numbers, we have accounted for in the regional human populations to determine the rate of shark attacks worldwide. I think that this information can contribute to a more scientifically based discussion about sharks in general and help with the management and conservation of them,” he continued.

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